Posts Tagged ‘cinema’

With 3-D movies becoming so ubiquitous, the magic of cinema is wearing off as more and more humdrum flicks are poured at us from every box office orifice. Previously, CGI perfection and action sequence bombasts became formulaic and jaw-achingly dull for the average cinema goer.  Thankfully a wonderful piece of film making has emerged in the form of The Artist. This is modern cinematography stripped bare of all whistles and bells: no 3-D, no CGI, no colour, barely any spoken dialogue, not even filmed in wide-screen. This, far from holding back any enjoyment of the theatregoer’s experience, rekindles their long lost passion for cinema in its pure form. Indeed, the film is set in Hollywood(land) of the 1920s and 1930s, straddling the last major technological milestone in cinema since the digital revolution: the advent of talking pictures.

[Press PLAY (and listen while you read)]

Sumptuous black-and-white magic from Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo

Every player  in The Artist is, necessarily in a film with almost no talking, visually arresting. Jean Dujardin cuts a suave dash as George Valentin, a huge silent star unwanted in a new era of vocal acting. With landscaped chin, lacquered hair and moustache clipped to an eyebrow pencil line, Dujardin’s face and physicality fascinates throughout the film’s 100 minutes. His acting is comic without being farcical; tragic without being hysterical. His co-star, budding blossom Peppy Miller, played by an engaging Bérénice Bejo, remains charming, demure and level-headed even when achieving the heights of talkie fame. She never forgets the role of Valentin in her success and watches, while trying to attenuate, his private demise  as he witnesses her very public ascension to super-stardom. Bejo does this with an unbent sensitivity, her engaging mouth filling the screen with her smile or quivering with unfettered sadness at the man left behind.

The faces of Bejo and Malcolm McDowell do all the talking in this scene

The supporting actors, although less physical, all have faces full of depth and character. Even a flash appearance from Malcolm McDowell as a jobbing extra delivers a comic vignette full of facial subtlety and wrinkled brilliance.

Hazanavicius, through Bejo and a hatstand, treats us to this funny yet touching scene

The director, Michel Hazanavicius, cannons a well aimed, pared down shot straight to the emotional core, uncluttered with dialogue. The depth of the monochrome montage screams sophistication and the soundtrack swells and dips with the action on screen. Hazanavicius brilliantly portrays an enormous sense of fun and excitement from the start with clever editing and use of movement to compensate for the lack of Foley sound or speech, which is never a disadvantage in this film. This makes almost every moment edge-of-seat tense which does lose fervour in the middle, possibly in order for the audience to catch breath before being shot at again during the dramatic ending. The director himself has been quoted as saying that he has used the silent format not as an homage to bygone days but a storytelling tool. He does just that, making an amazingly refreshing new film and helping audiences of all ages to rediscover the raw and beautiful art of cinema at its purest.

[Click here for the official trailer]
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From the very beginning of Nick Murphy’s period thriller, it seems that the awakening of Florence Cathcart (a plucky yet vulnerable Rebecca Hall) has already taken place. An enlightened young woman by 1920s standards, she is (Cambridge) university educated, a scientist, a published author, an inferred atheist and, most shockingly of her time, wearer of trousers while barking orders at men.

A professional myth buster, exposing fraudulent mediums feeding off the fear and grief in the aftermath of the First World War and influenza pandemic, she is called upon to investigate reported ghost sightings at a mansion turned boarding school- having been the scene of a long forgotten murder of course. Not only does she have to battle the myth and superstition of the paranormal but the prejudices of an early 19th Century patriarchal society which she does with a single-minded fervour.

However, her hardest battle is with her own sanity, which she seems to lose as the film progresses. Through a series of unexplained events and drastic, violin screeching cut-tos , the director takes us through the supposed haunted passages of the house as well as the troubled mind of Florence. Aided by a supporting cast of physically and mentally scarred war veteran turned schoolmaster, Robert Mallory (Dominic West); matron and ardent fan of Florence’s work, Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) and frightened child (Isaac Hempstead Wright), Florence closes her eyes tightly to her previously enlightened state and awakes in a world of apparitions, superstitions and acute awareness of her own loneliness. Ironically each character’s solitude and sadness draws them closer together but leaving them more mentally isolated.

The ending to the film is far less shocking than saddening. Reminiscent of other costume thrillers, the viewer is thrown a few red herrings before being treated to a retrospective glance at explanatory scenes. The truth, once exposed, is far more jarring than the  scattering of eerie moments throughout the last 100 minutes, showing that the evil perpetrated by the human mind and body is far more incomprehensible than any perceived spectral presence. This dissection and degradation of the human psyche  is certainly explored in the film but is lost in a supernatural fug of ghostly set ups and thriller-by-numbers moments. The paradox, however, is that both aspects could not sustain the film on their own. Once the real horrors are known, they resolve to be one and the same, showing us that however scared we are of the darkness of the truth, we still shut our mind’s eye tight, even though this makes the truth even darker.